Love The Vendor That Loves You Back

The sales machine is a complex beast and many may misinterpret who a good sales team is ultimately meant to serve. When salespeople want you as a customer, it’s their goal to bring you into the fold and partner with your business. In the very competitive career world of sales, these guys and gals find more satisfaction than you may think in helping people and watching every business they touch become more efficient (this is what drives the money and bragging rights they often use as a measure of who is the best). It’s also easy to argue that salespeople are the busiest people you will ever meet – look at all of the emails, phone calls, and surprise visits they make to your office. If there’s anything I can attest to throughout my career as a both a customer of a sales team and an engineer supporting it, it would be the shear fortitude, determination, and dogged pursuit that a good sales person has.

Allow me to show a different perspective on sales interactions and help you realize all there is to gain by learning to manage your vendors – specifically your salesperson. In the cyber security startup ecosystem, you will experience the most driven sales and engineering teams in existence as they fight for your business and their companies’ success. This dedication is begging to be leveraged by prospects and customers who oftentimes fail to recognize the opportunity, and perhaps choose to belittle the interaction.

An Analyst has a number of tedious tasks and at least as many vendors who claim to assist with them. Sticking to the most relevant task, I could count 10-20 security startups who claim a “reduction in alert fatigue.” This begs the question: can they actually make a difference? Say you decide to engage with a vendor of this nature. Maybe you think they are selling dreams, or worse yet, snake oil. Then you decide to take a combative or defensive approach, either ignoring them entirely or – in the other extreme – setting a course to disprove them.

Lets pause here a moment and consider that perhaps you are going about this all wrong.

What if you were to change the approach from radio silence or discrediting them bit-by-bit, and instead turn the conversation into a job interview? Rather than setting the conversation up for failure  in binary fashion with finite outcomes, why don’t you try more open ended questions?

Here is a list of five questions I recommend you ask your sales contact to drive a more productive outcome:

  • How many alerts can your product review for me in a day?
  • What types of attacks can your system detect?
  • How long will it take to tune your product to achieve the advertised results?
  • How strongly do you stand behind your claims?
  • Are you willing to put your team on your tool to tune and review alerts until your product lives up to its claims?


This last question may be the most important. It is a call to action for the vendor to put their money where their mouth is. If you’ve partnered with a solid vendor, they should be  willing to dedicate resources beyond their technology to ensure the value they claim is realized and your problems are solved. They must be willing to invest in the relationship.

If you continue to move forward after asking these questions, you’ve not only expanded your capabilities in terms of technology, but you’ve added virtual headcount to your team at no additional cost. Believe it or not, there is also benefit to the vendor beyond the sale price. A willingness to engage at this deeper level is a tremendous learning resource for any company. Particularly when it comes to hot new technologies like AI, improvement can’t happen in a vacuum and there is no silver bullet that can solve all of today and tomorrow’s problems. It’s so important to invest in a team with an interest in your success, and whose success you’re invested in, in return. Solving the immediate problem of today is proven to have the adverse side effect of shining the spotlight on the new problem of tomorrow, meaning you need a vendor committed to the long game. Your sales guy may not be your quarterback in this endeavor, but they could at least be an all star receiver.  

The moral of the story – don’t be so quick to dismiss that cold call or to rip apart a new technology. If you take an objective approach and interview for the good sales guy who is ok being held accountable to problem solving and results, you may find yourself in the company of people who are enjoyable to work with, willing to invest in you and your business, and able to give you a lot more than the face value of your new technology purchase.

Visit and get a feel for what I’m talking about today.

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